Book Business Blather

If you don’t care about numbers and math and publishing talk, feel free to go pick up a free copy of Letters to An English Professor or The Horse Master of Shanhasson and skip the rest of this post!

I’ve always been pretty honest about sales and my numbers – which have never been fantastic, other than a really good year in 2010. That was my best year ever. I actually made more with books than That Man did at his full-time job that year.

But despite publishing many more books since then, my income has halved and halved and halved… again and again.  Of course the Samhain debacle last year put a huge crimp in my sales across those 10 books.  One Cut Deeper did really good (for me) at Carina, but follow-up sales of Two Cuts Darker were disappointing enough they declined to even consider Three Cuts Deader.  The Bloodgate series was already dead.

The Billionaires did pretty “okay” at Samhain in the beginning – but nowhere near my expectations.  I don’t know if it was the covers, their generally declining sales across the boards that forced them to close, MY generally declining sales…  All of the above, likely.

So I had a lot riding on the re-release of The Connaghers, and especially Mine to Break in July.  First and foremost, I needed to make back $1200 in covers alone.  I’ve been experimenting with Facebook ads and they are NOT cheap.  Even $5/a day (their min) to explore audiences ads up quickly.

I’ve invested $20/month in Instafreebie to build my list. Just under $40/month for my newsletter service.  Since I started last year, I’ve managed to increase my list from 100 to 2200.  Not bad.  My open rates are between 45-50%.  I’d like to keep growing there, and building connections with those subscribers, so I’m experimenting with some polls and small giveaways.

So where am I at right now with the business end of things?  The good news:  I’ve almost made back the cover expenses.  Now all of that isn’t in my needy little hands.  As money comes in, it goes right back out the door for newsletters, giveaways, and advertising, and royalties come in 60-90 days after the fact.  But it IS coming back and I feel like it was a good investment.

Comparing January sales to what I made in July:  I saw a 676% increase in sales.  That sounds great, right?  But 676% of not much is still… not much.  July was a release month, and already those numbers are decreasing.  August was a release month for the Billionaire books at Entangled, and they did pretty well at first with the $.99 prices, but sales have quickly dropped off again (according to Amazon rankings).

So I need more books out, in those series, to keep the numbers. And of course I don’t have anything. Yet.

The bad news:  I’ve decided to pull the Connagher books back to Kindle Unlimited at this time.  So far in September, I’ve only sold 10 books across all of Draft2Digital’s venues.  TEN. For five books.  Yeah.  It’s just not worth it right now – and while the KU payout is small, I need any advantage I can get for visibility right now.  If you primarily buy at B&N or Kobo or iTunes, I’m sorry and if you reach out to me (joelysueburkhart AT gmail DOT com), I’ll make you a copy that you can read on your device.

Returning to KU will allow me to do more creative countdowns and free days. I’m doing some promotions with Love Kissed Book Bargains that have really been outstanding (nearly 1500 downloads of Letters to An English Professor when I listed it) and will continue to do some targeted free day and $.99 bargain deals.

I will probably pull the Shanhasson books to KU too at some point – but they need some formatting work.  (I originally uploaded them in 2011.)  I’d rather get some new material out there than do this kind of busy/admin work, so that’s not high on my priority list at this time.

My take away at this point is positive – but needs improvement.  I’m going the right direction. The best thing I can do for my numbers right now is keep growing, keep giving away books, and write another Connagher book, and write another Billionaire book or spinoff. AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.  That wasn’t in my wish list right now – I have so many interesting shiny ideas I really want to do, but from the numbers game, it makes the most sense to capitalize on where I am right now.

I am still working on the vampire series — but I plan to release three books close together in back-to-back months, so I’d really like to have them written, or close to written, before I release the first one.  The cover artist doesn’t even have slots for the other two covers until Dec/Jan, so it’s going to be a little while yet before I can share that new world.

I would love to work on Three Cuts Deader – but while Carina still holds the rights for the first two books, I’m limited in what I can do. I have covers purchased, so I do want to work on them – but I can’t run the same kind of growth plans as easily when I don’t control the pricing.  So I’m still working on a plan for that series.  The longer it takes me to come up with a decision and plan, though… the less it will benefit me sales-wise to write them.  Two Cuts Darker came out well over a year ago.  Few people are going to remember Charlie and Vincent at this point except for a few beloved friends and family and a few dedicated readers (hugs, I love each and every one of you).  The general Amazon reader isn’t going to care about a third book in a series that came out 2 years or more ago, by the time I actually get the book written.

And of course, Lady Wyre is (not so) patiently waiting for me to decide what to do with her and her men.  My Entangled (former Samhain) editor would love them, and that would give me the more immediate opportunity to write another book(s) in that series.  I just hesitate to put too many eggs in a publishing basket when my last basket rotted and fell apart on me.  I’ve priced polishing those covers (not starting over from scratch) and am looking at $600 plus $250 for the third Lady Wyre book.  It’s going to take some time for me to get that much built back up.  So Lady Wyre is in a holding pattern until I decide for sure what I want to do.

I do have one last proposal out to Carina under a new pen name and entirely new genre. That could be a game changer and anything I plan now could get thrown out the window. I should know in the next few weeks (it’s been under consideration for 2 months now).

The bad thing for me is that I hop around too much. I can’t make a decision and stick to it.  I think, Oh, I should work on this! It’s so cool and I have a great idea for a giveaway! Or I hear about a great boxed set opportunity, that would let me write another book in the Nightgazer world. Or the Zombie Category Romance world. Both worlds I love and want to work in.  But I can’t hop around back and forth. I’ve got to focus. But focus is NOT my strong suit in the writing game.  (Picture horse kicking down her stall and running out into the blizzard again.)

And things at home aren’t the best. I can’t get into details but it’s not easy, it’s never easy, and carving out MY time to write is a constant battle.  I type this while facing a THIRD trip to the high school this afternoon/evening to pick Littlest up from marching band. Both she and Middle are in Geometry this year and I help them with homework several nights a week. Of course they can’t begin said homework until Mom’s ready to go write…

Anyway, that’s my long-winded blather post about the state of the union.  Onward and upward!

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